Critical Interview - Alessio Cavatore (Loka Designer)

Recently, Alessio Cavatore (Famed War Game Designer and lover of Chess) teamed up with Mantic Games and launched Loka, a Kickstarter project.  Funded successfully, and quickly I might add, this game is sure to set itself apart both in style and in mechanics. Loka looks like a cool chess set at first glance, but with the background Mr. Cavatore brings to the table, there's much more strategy and warfare waiting for the smallest pawn or most powerful king!


I was recently afforded the opportunity to speak with Alessio about Loka, Kickstarter and several other areas pertaining to Loka and below are some of his insights.  I'd like to thank both Mantic and Alessio for taking the time to answer questions for you, the Critical Fans!  If you are interested in Loka, you can see more about it by clicking this link, or the link to the right in our Critical Horizons section.

CH:  First thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions for the fans!  Your project for Loka: The World of Fantasy Chess has been very successful, right from the beginning.  Kickstarter has seen its fair share of Chess games or Chess based games, but in reality, most of them are challenged, even with smaller pledge goals.  What do you attribute your success with Loka to on the Kickstarter Platform?


AC:  To the fact I'm a genius, obviously! Seriously speaking, I think it's a combination of Loka's great-looking miniatures and graphics, the snazzy rules (which actually have not been shown in detail yet...), and the great community of Mantic fans, River Horse fans, and other gamers that through the year have played and ejoyed games I designed. 



CH:  One of the more amazing things to me personally is the $50 pledge level where you can get the complete Loka Game.  At first glance of the mini scuplts, I expected this to be a $100 or $200 investment for the entry level, but you have managed to take a classic game, mix it with creative fantasy and still be able to deliver an amazing entry point.  Can you tell us how that all came together?


AC:  Well, a lot of the initial investment in time and creative energies – the design of the game and its look, has been spread over a couple of years by River Horse, so that when it came to creating a commercial version of the game, Mantic had to face smaller set-up costs than it would have if they had to design the game by themselves. River Horse in return benefits from Mantic's production set-up, distribution net and lively community. Everybody wins!


CH:  Your background is very deep in game design Alessio, with the vast amount of major games you have worked on, what has been your favorite to design and what has been your favorite to play?


AC:  Oh gosh, that is a very difficult question... I think I have 'periods' where I prefer one game, and then I focus on another for a few years... and speaking with fellow gamers, I think I'm not alone in this. I'll intentionally avoid mentioning any River Horse or Mantic games, as that would seem too partisan in this interview, so aside from those, at this very moment I'm enjoying Bolt Action quite a lot. 



CH:  Many people feel Chess itself is such a classic game, that changing the rules really detracts from the purity of the game. With Loka, there are options to impact and change the "base" rules of Chess greatly, but yet the community seems to be embracing these, which normally points to solid design of course. During the development of Loka, as with any game, I'm sure things were taken out of the design; can you tell us a bit about this process, how you came to the rules for Loka, and what has been the most challenging part of tackling a classic game like Chess, to make it both fun and strategic in the form of Loka?


AC:  Well, the quest for the holy grail I've embarked upon is to create a perfect wargame, one that borrows the best of both wargaming and chess. From wargaming, it gets the colourful miniatures, the fun and chaos of the dice rolling, a neat fantasy atmosphere and the interesting meta-game of creating one's army. From chess the depth of strategic thinking, the complete balance between the two armies, and the complete and very very welcome absence of any rules issues, discussions and 'interpretation', that have spoiled quite a few wargames for me. Will I find the grail? Who knows, but as they say, the quest itself is more important than the outcome of the quest! The one bizarre thing someone pointed out the other day is that Loka is more balanced than chess, because in chess the two factions have different powers - chess always moves first! In Loka instead, going first is left to the dice... Have I managed to design a game that is more balanced than chess? 

CH:  You mention in your video for Loka about a Campaign system.  Obviously, lovers of War Games would love to know more.  Can you share thoughts on either the story behind the campaign system, any actual mechanics or other items that may interest our readers?


AC:  I definitely would! I see the map of Loka being used as a campaign map, for people to mark their domain with flags, or castles, or magnets... and then when you are fighting for contro of a territory, you resolve the outcome with a game of Loka. And some games could be uneven amount of points between the players, when for example a small army meets a larger one. The terrain features on the map could aslo affect the way you deploy the terrain on the chessboard (a forest territory could have more forest squares on the board, for example...). 



CH:  Finally, what do you foresee in the future for Loka?  Potentially a 5th Elemental Set; more pieces that could impact the gameplay; or possibly something no one has thought of yet to impact a custom Chess game like this?


AC:  The 'fourth bolt-on rule' is a possibility, as people have asked for it. This would be a way to give a different flavour to each faction and I would do that with a deck of cards that are specific to each element and confer them some characterful power.    

Thank you Alessio for your time, I'm personally looking forward to this project and can't wait to play the game, which I'm sure by the success of the project is the same feeling others have as well!  Again, if you, the Critical Fan, are interested in Loka, click any of the pictures in this article or our Critical Horizons Link to Loka to see the Kickstarter Project and Pledge Levels available!

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